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JOHN PHILLIP (1817-1867)

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 405 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHN PHILLIP (1817-1867), Scottish painter, was born at Aberdeen, Scotland, on the 19th of April 1817. His father, an old soldier, was in humble circumstances, and the son became an errand-boy to a tinsmith, and was then apprenticed to a painter and glazier. Having received some technical instruction from a local artist named William Mercer, he began, at the age of about fifteen, to paint portraits. In 1834 he made a very brief visit to London. About this time he became assistant to James Forbes, an Aberdeen portrait-painter. He had already gained a valuable patron. Having been sent to repair a window in the house of Major P. L. Gordon, his interest in the works of art in the house attracted the attention of their owner. Gordon brought the young artist under the notice of Lord Panmure, who in 1836 sent him to London, promising to bear the cost of his art education. At first Phillip was placed under T. M. Joy, but he soon entered the schools of the Royal Academy. In 1839 he figured for the first time in the royal academy exhibition with a portrait and a landscape, and in the following year he was represented by a more ambitious figure-picture of " Tasso in Disguise relating his Persecutions to his Sister." For the next ten years he supported himself mainly by portraiture and by painting subjects of national incident, such as " Presbyterian Catechizing," " Baptism in Scotland," and the " Spaewife." His productions at this period, as well as his earlier subject-pictures, are reminiscent of the practice and methods of Wilkie and'the Scottish genre-painters of his time. In 1851 his health showed signs of delicacy, and he went to Spain in search of a warmer climate. He was brought face to face for the first time with the brilliant sunshine and the splendid colour of the south, and it was in coping with these that he first manifested his artistic individuality and finally displayed his full powers. In the " Letter-writer of Seville " (1854), commissioned by Queen Victoria at the suggestion of Sir Edwin Landseer, the artist is struggling with new difficulties in the portrayal of unwonted splendours of colour and light. In 1857 Phillip was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, and in 1859 a full member. In 1855 and in 186o further visits to Spain were made, and in each case the painter returned with fresh materials to be embodied with increasing power and subtlety in the long series of works which won for him the title of " Spanish Phillip." His highest point of execution is probably reached in " La Gloria " (1864) and a smaller single-figure painting of the same period entitled " El Cigarillo." These Spanish subjects were varied in '86o by a rendering of the marriage of the princess royal with the crown prince of Prussia, executed by command of the queen, and in 1863 by a picture of the House of Commons. During his last visit to Spain Phillip occupied himself in a careful study of the art of Velazquez, and the copies which he made fetched large prices after his death, examples having been secured by the royal and the royal Scottish academies: The year before his death he visited Italy and devoted attention to the works of Titian. The results of this study of the old masters are visible in such works as " La Loteria Nacional, " left uncompleted at his death. During this period he resided much in the Highlands, and seemed to be returning to his first love for Scottish subjects, painting several national scenes, and planning others that were never completed. He died in London on the 27th of February 1867. His works were collected in the International Exhibition of '873, and many of them are engraved by T. Oldham Barlow. In addition to the paintings already specified the following are among the more important: " Life among the Gipsies of Seville " (1853), " El Paseo " (1855), " Collection of the Offertory in a Scotch Kirk " (1855), " A Gipsy Water-carrier in Seville " (1855), " The Prayer of Faith shall save the Sick " (1856), " The Dying Contrabandist " (1856), " The Prison Window " (1857), " A Huff " (1859), " Early Career of Murillo " (1865), " A Chat round the Brasero " (1866).
End of Article: JOHN PHILLIP (1817-1867)
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